Senators tell Panetta: Montana Airmen ‘world class’
(U.S. SENATE) – Senators Jon Tester and Max Baucus are reminding the U.S. Defense Department that Montana is the “ideal fit” for the new C-130 aircraft mission.
Tester and Baucus secured the C-130 mission for the Montana Air National Guard in February, and the cargo planes are expected to provide hundreds of jobs for Montana Airmen and members of the Great Falls community. The Air Force is currently considering the best way to restructure its fleet to meet new mission requirements nationwide.
Tester and Baucus said the “world class” reputation of Montana Airmen make the C-130s the perfect fit for the Big Sky State.
“Montana Airmen bring a great deal of skill, experience and professionalism to any mission to which they are assigned,” Tester and Baucus wrote today to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. “It is why they should continue to play a pivotal role in the defense of our nation.”
The Senators also noted that C-130s, considered the ‘work horse’ of the Air Force, can be used to fight wildfires and would “help address the critical and urgent needs” of Montana communities responding to natural disasters.
“Just this past year, Montana experienced extensive flood damage in communities and Indian reservations across the state, in addition to significant crop and livestock loss,” Tester and Baucus wrote. “Much of this damage and loss could have been avoided if the State had use of C-130s to airdrop supplies.”
Tester and Baucus have fought for years to deliver a new manned flying mission to Great Falls, most recently pushing the Defense Department to clarify its deployment plans and vowing not to rest “until the last of the C-130s lands in Great Falls.”
Text of Tester’s and Baucus’ letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is available online and below HERE.
March 23, 2012
The Honorable Leon Panetta
Secretary of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301-1000
Dear Secretary Panetta:
We appreciate your ongoing leadership, as well as your efforts to identify significant savings across the Department of Defense. As you have stated, this is a particularly difficult task that must be undertaken while keeping faith with our men and women in uniform, ensuring they have everything they need to keep our nation safe and complete their missions effectively. We write today regarding the significant force structure changes recently announced along with the Air Force’s Fiscal Year 2013 budget proposal, and to reaffirm our strong support for bringing a C-130 mission to Montana.
As the Defense Department and Air Force are well aware, the Montana Air National Guard is a particularly ideal fit for a C-130 mission. Given the prevalence and diversity of our state’s disaster needs and the fact that our state is roughly the size of the nation’s entire northeastern corridor, we have a demonstrated and urgent need for increased airlift capacity that could make a significant contribution toward saving lives and preventing untold damage to our communities.
Just this past year, Montana experienced extensive flood damage in communities and Indian reservations across the state, in addition to significant crop and livestock loss, and costly damage to our transportation infrastructure. Much of this damage and loss could have been avoided if the State had use of C-130s to airdrop supplies, like hay bales to rural farmers and ranchers trying to protect their land and livestock. Overflowing rivers washed out homes, businesses and roads across the state, isolating entire communities. C-130s could have been used for evacuations, bring in much needed food and water and assist in quickly mobilizing our Army National Guard so they could assist devastated communities in need. Now given the unusually warm temperatures and light snow pack on the plains, we are bracing for what expects to be a very dry and potentially challenging fire season. Our state and local agencies are prepared to assist communities however they can, but they will undoubtedly need to mobilize all of the tools at their disposal. A fleet of C-130s stationed in Great Falls would ensure that our state and our neighboring states are better prepared and able to work quickly and effectively to address the critical and urgent needs of Montana communities. Right now, this is an asset our region simply does not have.
But the best case for bringing C-130s to Montana is the quality men and women of the Montana Air National Guard. As you may know, for the first time in the history of the Air National Guard, every unit in one state earned a citation of excellence in 2011. That state was Montana. The world-class reputation of our Airmen underscores the fact that these men and women bring a great deal of skill, experience and professionalism to any mission to which they are assigned. It is why we fight so hard on their behalf, and it is why they should continue to play a pivotal role in the defense of our nation.
We appreciate your openness to working with us in a close and productive manner. Over several years, we have worked with the Defense Department, the Air Force and the National Guard Bureau to ensure that Great Falls retained a manned flying mission in the event that the Air Force proceeded with the relocation of Montana’s F-15 mission. Along with the Montana Air National Guard and community leaders, we now welcome the announcement of a C-130 mission. It is the right fit because our disaster response needs are great, our Airmen are world-class and our airspace is an unrivaled national asset. We look forward to your continued support of this decision and to working closely with you until the last of these C-130s lands in Great Falls.
Jon Tester and Max Baucus